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Fostering Success program supports students of independent backgrounds

Of all the foster youth in the United States, only 10 percent attend college and less than three percent will earn a college degree, according to a pamphlet distributed by Fostering Success at Colorado State University.

To try and aid this statistic of foster youth graduating from college, Fostering Success gives a support network to those foster youth at CSU. 

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As of 2015 there were over 670,000 foster youth in the United States, according to a report by the Children’s Bureau, an office of the Administration for Children and Families. 

Fostering Success reaches out to the students they know are coming from independent background situations.

The Fostering Success program aims to support CSU students who “experienced foster care, kinship care, orphan status, unaccompanied homelessness or other independent backgrounds,” according to a pamphlet distributed by the program.

Woman stands in front of Lory Student Center wall.
Rebecca Villalpando, the director of outreach and support groups at Colorado State University, and a co-chair of the Fostering Success program.

The program offers scholarship opportunities, care packages and social events, financial aid, academic skill building workshops and service learning opportunities. 

“We have created a network of support that is really based on campus, faculty, staff and student volunteers who come together to think about what the challenges are that these students face and how, as an institution, can we respond to provide resources and support,” said Rebecca Villalpando, the current administrator of the program.

Villalpando works with volunteers to run the different programs of Fostering Success until a full time leader for the program is hired.

The program started to come together in 2009 when a group of people on campus came together to discuss the topic of foster youth. In 2010, action was taken and the program was officially put into place.

The first thing that the program did and still does was put together care packages for students who live in the residence halls.

“We had a group of graduate students who were part of this task force who talked about their experience as former foster youth,” Villalpando said.

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From there, the program grew into more events and support programs for foster youth. 

Colorado State University senior Melissa Reynolds poses for a photo outside of Clark C in front of a patch of flowers.
Colorado State University senior Melissa Reynolds poses for a photo outside of Clark C.
(Austin Fleskes | Collegian)

When the program first started, it served about 13 students and grew to aid over 200 CSU students who fall into independent background situations. 

Since 2011, over 110 students connected to Fostering Success have graduated from CSU, according Villalpando. 

Melissa Leavenworth, a senior journalism and psychology major, was reached out to by the program before she came to CSU, accepted their invitation of support and began to be part of the program’s events. 

“What each student gets out of the program looks a little different,” Leavenworth said. “Some of us go to each meeting for the connection to other students.”  

Once in her sophomore year, Leavenworth got more involved with the program and began to help build care packages for other students in the program, seeing it as a way to give back to the program for supporting her. 

“They have given me everything from providing a shoulder to cry on, to help navigating college life, to scholarships so that I could finish my goals here at CSU – things that a lot of students get from their families,” Leavenworth said. “I am beyond grateful for the ways that FSP has supported me.”

April Fitzgerald, a junior international studies major, came in contact with Fostering Success towards the end of her junior year in high school. 

Colorado State University sophomore Devontay Tobe leans against a tree for a portrait outside on the plaza.
Colorado State University sophomore Devontay Tobe poses for a portrait outside on the plaza.
(Forrest Czarnecki | Collegian)

Fitzgerald said that the program provided her with a support network that made her feel not alone, as she didn’t have much of  a support system her freshman year. 

“It’s a really good program for students that don’t have that familial support,” Fitzgerald said. 

Fitzgerald added that it is nice to see a program that does not let students who may not have a support group slip through the cracks. 

Devontay Tobe, a second year English education major, spent his junior and senior year of high school in the Upward Bound program, in which he came up to CSU over the summer, took classes and stayed in the dorms. Tobe fell in love with the campus and saw it as his second home.

Fostering Success reached out to Tobe right as he started at CSU. After receiving an email, Tobe was offered school supplies and invited to attend events to be integrated into the program as well as campus. 

“The Fostering Success program has given me the opportunity to continue to go to CSU and be comfortable at CSU,” Tobe said.

The program also helped pay for Tobe’s emergency fund for housing both during school and during winter break, along with continued access to school supplies. 

“The program is an opportunity to get resources and to be the best I can be on CSU’s campus,” Tobe said. “They make sure to knock down as many barriers as possible for me and help me in any way shape and form so that I can succeed.”

Tobe added his deepest thanks to the program for helping him out a lot so far at CSU.

“They’re everything that I needed,” Tobe said “(They’re) everything that I could ever hope for in a program.” 

Collegian news reporter Austin Fleskes can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Austinfleskes07.

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